By Alison Watt - 6th July 2018 7:00am
An open letter to the Haddenham community from Alison Watt
For seven years we've been watching the news of war-torn Syria, seeing people leave their homes with very little, trapped in refugee camps around the borders of Syria, when not risking their lives to cross to Europe . We are so lucky, living safely in Haddenham, well-off in so many ways, maybe wondering how we can share some of our good fortune to help people in such wretched conditions. There is now a scheme which would give a family the chance to be safe and build a better life.
In 2015 the Government set up the Government's Community Sponsorship Scheme by means of which local communities sponsor a vulnerable family currently living in a refugee camp somewhere round the borders of Syria. Could we do that in Haddenham? So far over 70 families have been settled in the UK, in places ranging from Falmouth in Cornwall to Fishguard in South Wales from Whitehead in Northern Ireland to Hythe in Kent. We think we're small and powerless, but together we can change lives.
If this scheme went ahead in Haddenham, it would mean considerable commitment, so I am currently trying to gauge how much support there is in the village.
The scheme was set up by the Government in 2015 as a way of meeting their commitment to accept 20,000 people under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation for Syrian Nationals. I have attached a short report on this scheme and what it involves, if you are interested. However, two salient points are that it is the Home Office and UNHCR which choose the family for resettlement, not the sponsors. And the family come with all their immigration documentation in place, so they can work, claim benefits, have access to the NHS etc.
I am looking to form a group of people with shared values and a commitment to welcoming refugees. At this stage, I think there are two ways in which people can give support:
1. General support of the scheme in the sense of being prepared to speak up for it, attend open meetings;
2. More focused support in the sense of being prepared to take on a role within a core group, for example, fund-raising, or liaison with medical services, or identifying housing.
I would be grateful if you would let me know if you support the project, and indeed, pass on this letter to anyone else who you think might support the project. I'll then call a meeting of supporters to discuss roles and ways forward. If this was successful and with enough support, I would then look towards organising an open meeting.
Any ideas, thoughts or suggestions about this project would be most gratefully received. The best way to contact me is via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.